Please, no photos!
July 7, 2007 10:54 AM   Subscribe

How do you socialize if you don't like to be photographed?

I am not a good-looking woman and I do not photograph well. I have red hair, my skin tends to be ruddy and let's just say I am no oil painting. No one has ever taken a photograph of me that I like and I would prefer never to be photographed at all.

The problem is parties. These days no party is complete without an array of cameras coming out at some point, and then as often as not a batch of the photos are posted to Flickr, Facebook or wherever. Usually I can step aside, duck back, move out of the frame in some way. Sometimes people will accept the excuse that I don't like having flash go off in my eyes. Sometimes they will not.

But there are always the people who catch on, and decide it would be fun to take my picture despite my requests not to do so. Often it's with a kind of gleeful "Gotcha!" and I'm then forced to be Captain Bringdown and tell them in fact no, I'm not trying to be coy or get more attention, I just don't want you to take my picture.

I am not sure how to handle this politely; I don't want to have to avoid certain social occasions completely. I just wish there were some kind of badge or symbol one could wear to say "Please, no photos!" or, alternately, some verbal formula to convince even the unruly that I am quite serious and please go photograph someone pretty and leave me alone.

Anyone have any suggestions?
posted by zadcat to Human Relations (98 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
I don't think there's a good way to handle this politely. Preferring to never be photographed is far enough outside the social norm that there's really not a good way to get this across to a stranger in a pity but polite way.

This may sound callous, but can you work on sucking it up? I mean, if you're ugly then you're ugly whether or not somebody photographs you being ugly, right? I guarantee you nobody's going to forward the photo around so others can marvel at your ugliness.
posted by myeviltwin at 11:09 AM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Give the finger to everyone who tries to take your picture. At many parties this will be funny. Obviously not for the country-club set.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:13 AM on July 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


Oh you definitely need therapy. I'm kidding. I used to think about this too, since I don't like most candid photos of myself either. I think in the long run the best solution for you is to just figure out a way to get over it. Can you try to change the things you don't like about the way you look? See a dermatologist about your complexion, change your hair color to something else? I'm not saying try to be someone you aren't, but I remember when I was in high school I hated the way my hair looked, but I wouldn't change it because I was also afraid of what people would say or think about it then. But when I did finally change it to something I really liked, I was way happier, and of course no one else cared or even really noticed.

I'm guessing that no one's posting photos to Flickr and pointing you out as some freak, so the problem is really all sort of yours. People take pictures at parties--it's going to be hard to avoid that. I think you'll be happier to try to figure out what's really bothering you about getting your picture taken and work on that.
posted by sevenless at 11:16 AM on July 7, 2007


I went through a "don't like to be photographed" phase that I am mostly out of now. My issues were mostly that I didn't like how I looked in photos and honestly I didn't like how I looked period. I dealt with this in a few ways, some mature and some less so.

1. the "suck it up" approach was helpful, as was not trolling the internet for bad photos of me
2. I put more photos of me online that I liked, to balance out the lousy ones that I didn't like
3. I told close friends and associates that I was a little touchy about my picture being online and asked them to be decent about it
4. I made faces in photos people took of me (this has stuck as a habit and it's a little amusing to me now, maybe annoying to others)
5. I'd stop whatever I was doing and freeze and give the finger to photographers if I'd already asked them nicely to please move away from me several times (usually only a problem in huge weddings-of-near-strangers)
6. I'd wear disguises, not really but I'd do my hair different or wear glasses when I didn't normally to make it clear that however I looked, it wasn't the "real me"
7. at MeFi meetups people are often quite decent about not taking photos of you.
8. work on decent ways of telling people nicely you'd like to not have your photo on the internet (also I do NOT recommend this, but you can be extreme and say that you're in some sort of hiding situationn -- abusive ex etc -- and it's very important to you to not show up online, you're sorry you know this is awkward, etc)
9. ultimately, I got serious about losing weight, getting a better haircut and being someone *I* liked to look at so I was less touchy about how I looked in others' photos of me. I know that's not super helpful for your situation, but I just wanted to say that it worked pretty well.
posted by jessamyn at 11:21 AM on July 7, 2007 [9 favorites]


I recommend myeviltwin's advice. Some people are malicious and unrelenting about taking photographs and the more you tell them not to, the more they're going to try to do it.

My advice is to ask for copies of the photos that are taken of you. Go through them and try to find things about them that you like. Get to know the photographic you better so that when you look at pictures of yourself in the future you won't feel so crappy about how you look.
posted by Demogorgon at 11:22 AM on July 7, 2007


I take people's photos at parties very often. I'm generally respectful of a straight up "I don't like having my picture taken", unless infatuated with the person requesting, in which case a bit of an internal struggle plays out. Then something like "If you like me, you won't take my picture" will do it. Alternatively, some people I've met have used humor, generally of the hyperbolic variety: "Cameras are evil devices made to steal human souls", or my personal favorite, "Hey, you're funny...like Robin Williams...in One Hour Photo." The key is to be direct without anger or frustration in language accessible to drunken teenagers on up.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 11:24 AM on July 7, 2007


Personally, I find people who throw a fit and absolutely, positively refuse to have their picture taken really annoying. It strikes me as incredibly self-absorbed- as though everyone else in the world has time to sit around and judge you! We're all too busy worrying about ourselves. So stop making a scene- people will judge you more harshly about that then what you look like in pictures.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:26 AM on July 7, 2007 [10 favorites]


This is a touchy situation. I HATE being photographed as well. I never like how I look in photographs. I avoid being in photos if at all possible. However, I am a photographer, so many times I can hide behind the camera.

That may be a good method for you: take a tiny digital camera with you. If someone starts to take a picture of you, take a picture of them at the same time. That will give you some cover, and it may placate the photographer; at least you are in the photo. There's nothing wrong with saying you are shy, and stepping out of group photos. Anyone pressing you to rejoin would be rude. (Being rude has never stopped anyone from doing something though.)

If someone is taking candid shots as you socialize, and the camera-ploy above isn't an option, I think you just need to be gracious.

But over all, it sounds like there is a root of fear involved, which you need to get over. Something that might help: as painful as you may find it, gather some photos of yourself, and put them on display where you see them every day. (If you want to put them where company can't see them, that's fine.) Just make it so you are so used to seeing yourself in pictures that you become desensitized. Other people already know how you look, so they think nothing of seeing a photo of you. The problem is YOU aren't acclimated to how you look. That's true of any of us. We don't live in front of a mirror, so seeing ourselves in photos or video can be disturbing. You are just more sensitive than most.

After you get acclimated, when someone takes a picture, maybe the best reaction is BIG smile and wave. Or a "ta-daaa" pose. Nothing makes a worse photo than someone looking grumpy. Who knows, you may come to even like yourself in photos.
posted by The Deej at 11:31 AM on July 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


I have seen a dermatologist. A thousand bucks later I look just as bad and don't have further thousands to spend on this.

My hair colour is fine. I have no desire to change my hair. I don't think it's a problem.

I do not want to put photos of myself online. I have no photos of myself and don't want to have any taken. I'm surprised how many people respond to a statement that I don't want photos taken with some variation of "Oh, but you must have some photos taken!" or "Let me try!' No. Just no.

And I don't want to get cute with excuses. At a gathering just last night somebody asked me if I thought the camera was going to steal my soul. I don't know how to explain that I am not doing this to get attention.

Maybe "Fuck off" was invented for occasions like this, if "Suck it up!" is the general response.
posted by zadcat at 11:32 AM on July 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


I encourage you to freely have your photo taken now. As unattractive as you may feel you are, I guarantee that decades from now you'll look upon the photos from these days and marvel at the smoothness of your skin and the true color of your hair and laugh at the child who thought she was ugly when she was clearly so beautiful.
posted by jamaro at 11:34 AM on July 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


I think you've neatly illustrated why you're SOL. If you do nothing you will be captured by well-meaning but clueless casual snappers, if you make a fuss about it the type of person who has the gotcha mentality will stalk you. Communicating your desire is not the problem, the problem is that some people do not consider it a reasonable desire and see violating it as a challenging game.

You can make a big old scene which will put off all but the hardest core but there will always be people for whom escalated protest will translate into escalated fixation, and of course this will focus more negative attention on you than any unflattering candid ever could, and in this day and age probably get you on YouTube eventually. If you go this way it might be fun to mix it up, you could claim the belief that photographs will "steal your soul" and fly into a towering meltdown of religiosity over it.

You could carry an interesting mask in your purse and pull it on as soon as the cameras come out, maybe something like buckethead's combo, which I sometimes get the feeling is the attire an individual adopts when they have a pathological aversion to being photographed but still want to have a career as a guitarist.

Your best bet is to get over it, honestly, because your real options are to stay inside or get photographed from time to time. Otherwise try to be more low key about your avoidance tactics to avoid the attention of the Gotcha artists.
posted by nanojath at 11:34 AM on July 7, 2007


I am not a child, thanks jamaro - I'm twice the age of many mefites.

And I am a photographer, and a good one. (See Flickr pix connected to my user page.) But I'd never force a camera into someone's face at a party. It seems the height of rudeness to me.
posted by zadcat at 11:40 AM on July 7, 2007


I used to avoid having my picture taken, too. But then I realized, it's not having the picture taken that I hate...it's LOOKING at the picture afterwards that I dread.

I'm also "no oil painting"...but I've come to realize that my disgust with the way I look is way out of proportion to the way the world sees me. It's one of those "you wouldn't care what people think about you if you knew how rarely they do" kinds of things. People look at the photo and they think about the mood at the party, the things they talked about...even if they're not going "va-va-va-voom," they're not putting the thought and emotion into you and your imperfections that you put into it.

Clearly, if people want to take your picture -- and we're not talking Diane Arbus or Weegee, here -- they think you're well within the bounds of normal. But hemming and hawing and working to get out of it...that might attract much more unwanted attention than an unflattering snapshot.

So, I let people take my photo. Or if I really don't want it, I'll try something like "Sorry, I'm a vampire, I don't photograph." But mostly, I let them take my picture and then don't ever look at the picture. I know the revulsion is more in my head than in the real world, and I try not to think about it.
posted by PlusDistance at 11:43 AM on July 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


You know those little reflective patches on the back of people's shoes? Those absolutely ruin a photo taken with flash, not just the patch, but much of the stuff in the vicinity. Get some of those patches, apply to your jacket, hat, etc. They're even working on a much better idea, a spray called Blur. Without a flash, though, you're screwed.

I'm pretty sure that someone has found a way to tamper with the autofocus on cameras as well.

If you're seriously phobic about it, as I am, rather than hurrying away to discreetly vomit from the stress, just do so directly on the source of the stress. It really gets the message (and the mess) across. Personally, I find people who absolutely, positively have to take photos of other people against their wishes to be really annoying. It strikes me as incredibly insensitive - as though everyone else in the world has to do what you want!
posted by adipocere at 11:43 AM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Keep in mind that if you refuse to pose for photos, the only photos that will exist of you when you've passed away are ones you definitely will not like. I recall reading somewhere that it's common for someone to pass away and their family members to find that no good pictures exist that captured the beautiful wife, mother, aunt, friend they loved.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:44 AM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you. I'm easily twice the age as the average mefite as well. What I was trying to say is individually we are always children to our older selves. Not me to you or you to others. Just you to you. As a photographer, certainly you've learned how to be objective about how your subject matter presents itself in your photos. Perhaps you could take that same mindset and apply it to photos of yourself.
posted by jamaro at 11:45 AM on July 7, 2007


Have a similar problem at college... gatherings.
I have no problem with how i look in photos - but...
I prefer not to have photographic evidence of me being there posted on facebook, as i dont want it getting back to the (conservative) parents. Sure, i can untag myself, but that doesnt stop someone from going through my friends' albums and seeing me at places they dont think i would/should be.

I usually just twirl around whenever i see a camera or a flash.
posted by itheearl at 11:46 AM on July 7, 2007


Oh dear lord, please don't tell me you're not a 'good looking woman'. I just looked at your Flickr stream, and you're beautiful. You are an oil painting, from Pre-Raphaelite era. Meant in a not-creepy, compliment from one woman to another kind of way, of course. And I'm not just saying it because the women of Montreal are beautiful, either. :P

There's excellent advice from everyone here - and I agree, inevitably someone will take photos that show up on Flickr that make someone look silly. I've seen some of myself that make me cringe, and think about paying the photographer to take them down, but in the end it's like karmic photographic justice - everyone has pics of themselves they'd rather not exist.

Nthing the 'desensitization' angle too. Something that's worked for me recently is having a friend take some pics of me for a professional head shot, and from that exercise I could see that good photos of me can happen, that I don't break the camera, and that often a bad photo is more about the circumstances (bad light, poor angle, crappy composition) and less about the subject matter. You should know this - you're a great photographer :)

Hope this helps - I really like the advice people have provided here.
posted by rmm at 11:46 AM on July 7, 2007


FWIW, judging by the little icon on your Flickr site, I think you are gorgeous. I can understand not wanting to have your picture taken, but work on the self-esteem issue. You have teh hotness; use it.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 11:49 AM on July 7, 2007


Re the icon: I am a photoshop wizard, it's one way I pay the bills.
posted by zadcat at 11:53 AM on July 7, 2007


I'm not clear what the precise question is.

I am not sure how to handle this politely.

"Please don't take my photo" is a perfectly polite thing to ask. "Personal reasons" is a perfectly polite response when people ask why. These don't always work, of course.

I just wish there were some kind of badge or symbol one could wear to say "Please, no photos!"

There isn't. And if there was, the same people who ignore your requests would ignore the badge.

Or, alternately, some verbal formula to convince even the unruly that I am quite serious and please go photograph someone pretty and leave me alone.

"I am quite serious. Please go photograph someone else." Again, people who are inclined to ignore you will ignore you.
posted by L. Fitzgerald Sjoberg at 11:54 AM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Adding to my earlier "acclimate yourself to how you look" advice:

Think of how many people you know, or even famous actors or actresses, who are by no means attractive. We are used to how they look, and accept them like that. We don't cry out "ugly!" every time we see them. We register who they are.

These celebrities are not knows as "beautiful people" but they don't hide away in their homes:
Steve Buscemi, Clint Howard, Paul Giamatti, John Waters, Neil Young, John C. Reilly, Sandra Bernhardt, Rosie O'Donnell, Rosanne Barr, Yoko Ono, Linda Hunt, and many more.
posted by The Deej at 11:56 AM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


As someone who doesn't enjoy being photographed, I find myself required to employ a multi-layered defense. The initial polite-but-firm "No, thank you" occasionally needs to be followed up with a more firm "I do not want you to take my picture."

When the polite method fails -- and it does from time to time because a lot of photo-obsessed, extrovert, low empathy types can get very pushy about how it can't possibly bother me -- I employ physical obstruction and get out of the line of sight, allowing the photographer to continue whatever else they were doing but without my presence.

On very rare occasions I encounter the malevolent "gotcha" type. I deal with that in the same way I deal with any other malevolent stalking in my daily life: react with menacing and overwhelming hostility. When someone has decided that clear statements do not establish a boundary, I take it upon myself to enforce the boundary. This has involved anything from a firm preventative grasp on the lens of the offending device all the way to destruction of the camera.

There is a certain sort of person in the world who is categorically unable to respect the boundaries of others. Such people must be dealt with directly and harshly. It's not always necessary to make a scene, but it's necessary to leave a strong and lasting impression on anyone who would force themselves upon you. Do not place yourself in the position of being victim of such people. Place yourself in the position of being disciplinarian of such people.
posted by majick at 11:57 AM on July 7, 2007 [21 favorites]


Photos at parties are typically "photography" only in that they are live, still images taken with a camera. There's very rarely any art to it. These folks are not taking pictures of you so they can admire your beauty (or supposed lack thereof) later, they're taking pictures to supplement their memories. Something they can page through later and say "Aww, look, remember that time we all got together!"

Very rarely are pictures at parties really about you. I think your options are to stop going to these gatherings, or find a coping mechanism.

And, frankly, I think it's a little selfish to deny your friends their keepsakes just because you have some self-esteem issues.
posted by toomuchpete at 11:59 AM on July 7, 2007 [6 favorites]


(I should add that the aforementioned incident of camera destruction came after the situation had escalated over the course of an hour from "Please don't do that" all the way to a very clear "I've asked you several times. If you continue to point that camera directly at me, I will break it." The destruction of the camera was only performed after very clear and obvious warnings were given and not respected. If you're not the sort who can give calm, clear, obvious, and unmistakable warnings of escalation to even the most obnoxious person I don't suggest trying to damage their property.)
posted by majick at 12:07 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Preferring to never be photographed is far enough outside the social norm...

Many people don't like to be photographed. It is not outside the social norm. This is why polite photographers will not push the issue.

It is very rude to take someone's picture when they have stated this is against their wishes.

One tactic I've seen people use is to offer to take a group photo of others. You could also refuse by implying jessamyn's #8 without actually saying it, stating that some people have very good reasons why they need to keep their image out of the public eye or somesuch. This might help educate some of these obnoxious jerks.

What exactly do you say to these photoists that they are having trouble accepting? If it is "please, no photos" you might want to switch to something a bit harsher -- that phrase sounds almost like a joke. "I don't want my damn picture taken", maybe. You could follow this up with "get that camera out of my face before I (fill in suitable phrase)". If you are trying to sound polite and nice about not wanting your pic taken, it is going to come across as coy. Do not smile politely when refusing photos, it negates your message.

Most of the parties I go to don't seem to have this mass photography of everyone going on though, so I might not have a good handle on things. I also tend to like to have my photo taken, but usually people will hold up a camera in a "is this OK?" way first, and I will give them a smile or nod. Presumably if I frowned and shook my head they wouldn't take the pic, but I don't recall ever trying this.
posted by yohko at 12:09 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I want to add that I find the comments about the OP altering her appearance and/or opinion of her looks to be more than a bit out of line. Say that people don't have a right to decide if they would like to be photographed if that's what you mean, but a person should not have different rights depending on their physical appearance.
posted by yohko at 12:21 PM on July 7, 2007 [6 favorites]


Polite friendly request not to be photographed.

Polite firm request not to be photographed.

Blunt statement of your desire not to be photographed.

Use a laser pointer and a big smile.
posted by 517 at 12:33 PM on July 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


[a few comments removed - if you can't help the OP out without calling her or the other posters names, take it to METATALK]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:33 PM on July 7, 2007


I'm with majick, I guess. I hate having my photo taken.

And its not a self-image thing either. I think I'm a really good-looking guy. I also have plenty of photos of myself on my flickr stream.

I can't explain why I hate it exactly. It does feel as if someone else is presenting my image to the world and I have no control over it. One analogy I can think of is someone going through my notebooks of writing and posting it on mefi as a comment of mine. Or someone relaying something I said to them in private. Or perhaps its simple vanity - that the photo will be of me with my mouth half open and my eyes slightly rolled.

In any case, the reasons dont matter. Having your photo taken is a personal thing and if it makes you uncomfortable then its not unreasonable that people should respect that.
posted by vacapinta at 12:34 PM on July 7, 2007


My approach:
- people see me all the time. An additional picture won't change anything for them.
- spend no attention on photographs of myself.
posted by jouke at 12:34 PM on July 7, 2007


People don't give a second thought to how you look. But they probably feel annoyed that you make such a big deal about having your picture taken.

Ugly people don't look ridiculous in photos unless they're waving their hands in front of their face as the picture is taken.

It's like dancing: someone who dances poorly is still fun; someone who falls limp on the floor to avoid being lead to the dance floor just looks pathetic.
posted by colgate at 12:36 PM on July 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


I just want to say I sympathize completely with the OP. I hate having my picture taken, and have ever since I was very young. I don't think it's abnormal and I don't think you should have to suck it up and cave in to people who don't respect your wishes. I think the OP is expressing perfectly reasonable sentiments and has gotten too much unwarranted abuse.

That said, I have not got any good solutions. The only thing that has ever worked for me even a little bit is to become the photographer myself. There is no way I can tell my grandma not to take my damn picture or I'll bust up her camera.

It's not an answer to your question, but I think lifehacker linked to an article about how to look better in pictures a while ago. Might or might not help.

Also not an anwer to your question, but maybe, for specific events such as family reunions or Christmas, you could offer to put together official photo albums for family members, giving yourself a chance to at least select the best pictures and do some light photoshopping if you want.
posted by bluebird at 12:36 PM on July 7, 2007


"Use a laser pointer and a big smile."

Clever and funny that this is, I'd advise in the strongest possible terms against pointing any laser at a camera that is in all probability going to be near someone's eyes. I may be a camera-destroying dick, but even I wouldn't advocate potentially blinding someone as useful for correcting the behavior of camera wielding assholes.

If you're thinking about pointing a laser at a photographer, consider clocking them in the head instead. It's less likely to do permanent damage.
posted by majick at 12:40 PM on July 7, 2007


On very rare occasions I encounter the malevolent "gotcha" type. I deal with that in the same way I deal with any other malevolent stalking in my daily life: react with menacing and overwhelming hostility. When someone has decided that clear statements do not establish a boundary, I take it upon myself to enforce the boundary. This has involved anything from a firm preventative grasp on the lens of the offending device all the way to destruction of the camera.

Yes. In the halcyon days before digital cameras, you could just pull the film out and expose it. The good thing about becoming really hostile is that you generally only have to do it once; word gets around. Of course, it helps if, like me, you don't mind developing a reputation as a humorless bastard among rude people.

Personally, I find people who throw a fit and absolutely, positively refuse to have their picture taken really annoying. It strikes me as incredibly self-absorbed....

Not half so self-absorbed as seeing the rest of the world as being composed of little monkeys who are expected to dance (or, in this case, pose) for your personal amusement.
posted by enn at 12:43 PM on July 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Wow, what a range of opinion and borderline abuse.

See, it's a hot button, even if people want to pretend it's a normal part of social life. People do feel strongly about it, one way or another.

Also, I don't see why what I said is "making a big deal about having my picture taken." I simply mention to people around me that I'd rather not have my picture taken, expecting it to be an unremarkable request that any decent person would respect, and yet some people respond very badly. I don't really understand why and I'd rather not have to deal with the real aggression that comes out as a result.

Odd, isn't it?
posted by zadcat at 12:46 PM on July 7, 2007


How do you socialize if you don't like to be photographed?


To answer the question.

1. Meet people in dark places: dark bars, clubs etc. None of the amateur photographers will be able to take a picture. The really good photographers can still do it but they're also the ones more likely to take a gorgeous photo.

2. Avoid group meetings altogether. This won't happen in a one-one situation or even when only three people are present. If you're talking to one person they won't suddenly pick up a camera and take your picture without saying anything (which to me seals the "rudeness" angle; if you wouldnt do it in a one-one why would you do it in a group?)
posted by vacapinta at 12:48 PM on July 7, 2007


Thanks for removing some of the name-calling comments, jessamyn. Why are people taking this so personally? Ugh. And just for the record, orthogonality's entire comment is mostly Ookseer's deleted comment, with some words replaced. It's somewhat confusing the way it's presented.

majick said: a lot of photo-obsessed, extrovert, low empathy types can get very pushy about how it can't possibly bother me

Bingo. I understand that if you attend something like, say, a MetaFilter meetup or a flickr meet, there's going to be a whole lotta photo going on...that's half the fun. But if you're at some neighborhood party or a wedding reception or some place where you're just trying to lay low and enjoy yourself, the phototerrorists can be a real pain in the ass, and I say this as a person who has at least one camera on my person every time I leave the house. People who like being photographed are pretty much incapable of understanding why or how someone else could not love it. This thread before pruning was the perfect proof of that.

Maybe you could try hosting a camera-free party, zadcat - a night where you know you could relax and let loose without worrying about being photographed. That way you could just chill and be your regular self-absorbed, bratty, pain in the ass, cranky self. ;)

if you wouldnt do it in a one-one why would you do it in a group?

Good point! Safety in numbers, I guess.
posted by iconomy at 12:50 PM on July 7, 2007


zadcat: I know you don't want to be cutesy with excuses, but this is one of those things that (inexplicably) causes otherwise well-meaning people to feel perfectly justified in tramping on other people's boundaries. (hi, witness this thread -- a polite "no" because you don't like having your photo taken suddenly means you're self-absorbed, annoying, low in self-esteem, overly sensitive, uptight, self-righteous, cranky, selfish, unable to recognize your own beauty, and reclusive. Oh, and depriving your friends and future offspring of their inalienable right to own photos of you. Really, Mefites, y'all are disappointing today.)

Yes, refusing to appear in pics can come across as anti-social, and so would getting all adamant and cross about it in the moment. Saying or doing something that makes the moment light/funny or even weird might help it pass. I say go with something extreme, to get the point across that the person is badgering you and it needs to be dropped already.

You could try, "No really, please don't, I'm in witness protection, and if you take my pic, my FBI handlers will be forced to steal your camera and shatter it when you're not looking." Then give a millisecond of the Crazy Eyes, and people might just slink off in fear.

Or, you could make up an eye condition: "The flash and infrared activity cause me ocular pain, it's a weird thing I inherited from my grandmother, she was Icelandic, so if you could not take my picture, it would stop me from feeling like you're jabbing red-hot pokers in my retinas, k?thx."

You could try "Eh, I'm a photographer myself so I make it a point to only be on the business side of the camera." Or, "I might run for office one day, I'm just trying to micro-manage the dirt my opponents dig up." Or, "Do you really think I want to be recorded for all time as having spent several hours with this bunch of tossers?"

Anyone with a camera who just keeps at you on this is feeling some weird social shame compulsion. Same for anyone who is being judgmental of you for a perfectly normal preference regarding your own personal space and likeness.
posted by pineapple at 12:56 PM on July 7, 2007


I don't like having my picture taken when I'm in certain situations or with certain friends that I know will post these pictures in their internet journals to show off to everyone that they have friends. This isn't necessarily a bad thing to post photos online, but it is to me simply because I don't want a photo of me on the internet. I don't care how I look, but I just feel a lack of control to know that photos of me are floating around the net and anyone could have them. If I get my photo taken with just a few friends I will tell them not to post it online. Other than that, it's a tricky situation to say no without looking like someone who's "no fun" or weird. Whatever. The suggestions to shoot the finger sound good too.
posted by koshka at 1:06 PM on July 7, 2007


Some people take their "right to photograph you" to quite a degree, such that I expect that the camera is not a method of making keepsakes, but just a slightly-sanctioned method of annoying others. Ignore their smiles, they know quite well they're discomforting you. It's not just well-meaning ignorance. Politeness can be a handicap when dealing with the exploitatively rude, who depend on the politeness of others to get what they want.

Some other methods: Just holding your hand up past your face, about two feet away, in line of sight between you and the camera, and smile. "No, thank you!" in a bright voice. Hats are excellent for this. There's also the batshitinsane method: whip out a model release from your purse and start negotiating fees in a completely serious manner. After all, if they're posting these photos, there's a good chance that there is advertisement revenue somewhere along the line, and you deserve a cut.

Come to think of it, if you really want a "formula," as you mentioned, why not have a pre-printed sheet of paper detailing your aversion? The concluding paragraph might include something like: "As you can see, I have gone to the trouble of typing this up and printing out copies, so it's fairly likely I'm serious. Also, I'm guessing you probably won't leave the party quickly, thus leaving me enough time to carefully examine your brake lines should you take a photo of me. Have a nice drive home."

I was initially reluctant to mention violence in my previous comment, but since someone else has, yes, why not? If you can't get out of there fast enough, it's an option.

Personal anecdote: After some initial, polite declinations and then a general drifting towards the exit, a couple folks thought it would be, ah, entertaining to hold me against a wall while someone else photographed me. The photographer made a very nice outline in the drywall shortly thereafter.

Then I went outside and threw up.

A little camera destruction and general mayhem might lose you some friends, but these would be the sort of friends who haven't any respect for your wishes in the first place.
posted by adipocere at 1:24 PM on July 7, 2007


I have a good friend who doesn't like having her picture taken or posted online. She tells people that she is fiercely protective of her privacy, and does not want people to be able to find her without her permission. Some people think she's over the top, I guess, but it works. Of course, she applies this in other areas, too. She does not post anything using her real name on the internet. When friends have blogged about her, she politely contacts them and asks them to not use her name on their web sites. So when she asks people not to take her picture, and especially not to post it, it fits into the big picture of who she is and people tend to respect her wishes.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:24 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, zadcat, if none of the other suggestions work, you could simply dispense with politeness and let the chips fall where they may. I confess it'd make me mightily uneasy, but given how strongly you feel, it makes sense to be bold, even brusque about it. Some people will understand, others will not, but it's no great loss, because it would seem to make you happier than any forced politeness for the sake of social activity might. You favorited majick as best answer. If you're willing to destroy a camera to prevent an unwanted photo, it would benefit both you and the photographer for you to be as forceful as possible right from step one.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 1:46 PM on July 7, 2007


On preview, more or less what adipocere said, but yikes.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 1:49 PM on July 7, 2007


You could refuse to hang out with people who would push you to get your picture taken.

If someone insists because it is a group photo, you can offer to take the picture. You could even say something like, "What a great little camera? Do you mind if I look at it for a second?" Then just gesture that the original wannabe photographer get in the picture and take it.

If they insist because they believe that you are being falsely modest or shy, just declare:

"I don't mean to come across as rude or disrespectful or unfriendly. I don't think that you would want me to feel badly because you seem like any relatively understanding person. And I feel badly when it's insisted that I have a photo taken. But I'd be happy to take the photo for you." Rinse, repeat.

If you have to be more forceful, try the following:

"It seems really important to you that you have a photo of me. Why is that, exactly?"

I can't imagine a good enough reason that would sound good when stated out loud by the photostalker.

When one of my family members insists on a group photo, I will usually just suck it up. This usually involves my putting on the "photo face" that I developed in high school (a specific facial expression that is usually hiding my clenched teeth and stomach pains). But they don't post photos on the internet so that helps.

I wouldn't recommend shooting the finger or breaking cameras. But there must be techniques out there for avoiding photographs. Wasn't there a movie where someone's friend goes missing? When they go to fetch a photo of him for the police, it turns out that in every picture, he is either moving his head (so it's a blur) or he has turned away from the camera or his hair is covering half his face or something like that.

The strongly emotional answers in this thread have me completely baffled. I'm curious to know why some of the folks who are strongly "pro-photo all the time, norefusals" feel the way that they do? Why does it seem to feel like a personal insult if someone doesn't wish to have their photo taken?
posted by jeanmari at 1:57 PM on July 7, 2007


norefusals = no refusals. Darn space key.
posted by jeanmari at 1:58 PM on July 7, 2007


"It seems really important to you that you have a photo of me. Why is that, exactly?"

I can't imagine a good enough reason that would sound good when stated out loud by the photostalker.


That's a good point. Or, "Why are you making such a big deal out of this?" Because they are the ones making a big deal out of it. You're not denying them some god-given right to have a "keepsake"--if they were going around snipping locks of hair instead, anyone could see how inappropriate it was.
posted by Many bubbles at 2:08 PM on July 7, 2007


myeviltwin writes "Before you go implementing any of the more extreme suggestions here, you should probably know that while it is not illegal to photograph someone in public, smashing someone's camera or, god forbid, throwing them through a wall, is liable to get you arrested.

Put another way, yes it's rude when photographs you against your wishes. But part of being an adult is dealing with rude people without losing your shit and assaulting them. How about smiling sweetly and then walking away?"


this needs to be repeated.

I understand why you don't want to be photographed. As a photog myself, I don't like the front side of a camera either. At parties I will occasionally let people know that, or just keep my camera close so that when I see someone taking my picture I put my camera up and either they don't take the pic or at least my face isn't in the pic.

but seriously, violence because someone took your picture is stupid. if someone is being unreasonable there are SO MANY WAYS to deal with it other than getting violent/breaking stuff.
posted by PugAchev at 2:26 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm going to point this out once again, because there's a certain sense of "horrors, an inanimate object has been harmed!" going around that seems to be muddying the waters a little:

I said "If you're not the sort who can give calm, clear, obvious, and unmistakable warnings of escalation to even the most obnoxious person I don't suggest trying to damage their property."

Walking up to someone and mashing their camera against the corner of a table is something I advise if and only if you have failed to communicate with them in any other way. Such people exist, and as I said before, they're reasonably rare. Dealing with them requires being either a victim or a hardass, but being a hardass is effective only as a final, direct, and harsh measure.

Of the hundreds upon hundreds of times I've had a camera pointed at me, a destructive method of communication has been necessary only once.

As to this: "It seems really important to you that you have a photo of me. Why is that, exactly?"

The only result I see coming from debating someone who persists in pushing your boundaries is having a picture of you asking this question taken. Say "no."
posted by majick at 2:32 PM on July 7, 2007


The sneaky ideas in adipocere's first comment sound kind of fun.

I notice you haven't said anything good here about the people you hang out with. If the people at these parties are the kind of attention-seeking jerks who automatically assume everyone's motive is to get attention and everyone must LOVE being on display (ugh), you should find better friends. Problems like these happen less often at smaller parties with a group of handpicked non-jerks.

If that's not possible, a good compromise to placate the semi-jerky among them might be to let people take a few pictures, but ask that they not post them online. They'll get their pictures, and you won't have to see them or (hopefully) worry that they're on view to Google and the world.
posted by Drop Daedalus at 2:39 PM on July 7, 2007


I also have never liked being photographed; it's simply a personal space thing, like not wanting total strangers to walk up and lick my face.

In fact, I don't like this whole culture of always having to have some fucking gadget in hand at any gathering or event and having to record every experience rather than just being there in the place participating directly in the experience. Camera junkies are like those aunts who, at Thanksgiving, never actually sit down and eat dinner with the family because they're always carrying in platters or making coffee or "Oh, I forgot the olives; I'll just get them." Relentlessly snapping photos is probably a way for them to cope with their own massive social anxiety.

I can usually just slip out of camera range, but I'm not much for confrontation, so if a gritted-teeth "I. Do. Not. Want. To. Be. Photographed. Thanks" doesn't do the job, I practice constructive disengagement: turn briskly on my heel and go home. It may cut short a fun time or two, but if you pull an exit like this a few times, just matter-of-factly without any diva flourishes, soon enough people will get the message to leave you alone.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:41 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


majick writes "Walking up to someone and mashing their camera against the corner of a table is something I advise if and only if you have failed to communicate with them in any other way. Such people exist, and as I said before, they're reasonably rare. Dealing with them requires being either a victim or a hardass, but being a hardass is effective only as a final, direct, and harsh measure."

Yes I understand your point, but being a hardass doesn't require DAMAGING THEIR PROPERTY. If you are at a party, talk to the host about this person(a good host will either eject the person/talk to them or if he/she doesn't, why would you want to be there?), if you are in public, find a cop(if someone won't leave you alone, no matter what they are doing it is harassment). But breaking shit because you can't deal with someone is ALWAYS WRONG.

And believe me, as a photog I would NEVER try to "make" someone let me take their picture. But acting as if you deserve not to have your picture taken ever is unrealistic.
posted by PugAchev at 2:44 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


While you certainly have a right to ask people not to take your photo, I think going after the photographer or dramatically escalating the situation is probably a mistake. Certainly, attacking them or doing anything that might destroy their equipment is a Bad Idea. (Particularly because, at least in public, although you may have the right to stop them from doing anything with your image, including putting it on the Internet, you may not have the right to stop them from photographing you, and you definitely don't have the right to go and destroy their equipment because of it.)

I think that trying to stop everyone from taking pictures of you, all the time, is probably going to be increasingly impractical. There are cameras built into seemingly everything these days, and gauche though it may be, people use them everywhere and at every opportunity. If someone wants to take a picture of you, all they have to do is hold their cellphone up to their ear like they're using it, and aim it in your general direction. You'd never have any idea you're being photographed. (And although I agree that it's bizarre and stalkerish, the more confrontational you are about not being photographed, the more that's going to drive creepy people to get photos of you.)

I think a better approach might be to think about what really bothers you. I suspect it's not really the act of being photographed -- I mean, every time you walk past an ATM machine, bank, post office, office building, toll booth, etc., you're being recorded. I think what's bothersome is the sharing. And if you approach people that way, I think that your requests will seem a lot more reasonable.

You don't really even need to give a justification; when you see someone with a camera, just walk up to them and say, quietly, that you don't want your photo on the Internet, and you'd rather not be in any because of it. At worst, they'll probably assume you have stalker/psycho-ex/pervert-boss issues, at best maybe they'll think you're a super-spy or something.

Giving people a little idea of why you don't want them to take your picture will make your request seem a lot more reasonable; and people treat "reasonable" requests much more differently than they do ones that seem unreasonable or illogical. Although you may not think that you should have to give any reason at all, I think it'll make your life easier.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:47 PM on July 7, 2007


For a long time I didn't like to be photographed. This had nothing to do with my appearance and more to do with privacy issues. Here's what worked for me.

First, offer to take the photo. Next, simply ask that the person not snap your photo, nearly everyone will comply. Third, ask your friends to help enforce your boundary. This turns out to be no big deal and friends will do this for you. Your friends may think it's an odd request, but people who care for you respect your needs.

The last thing is that with any boundary, you need to be willing to enforce it. If someone is constantly snapping photos of you, then you need to stop hanging out with that person. If someone asks you why you don't want to hang out with the Photog, then you tell them why.

People who don't respect your boundaries are not your friends.
posted by 26.2 at 2:48 PM on July 7, 2007


trying to stop everyone from taking pictures of you, all the time, is probably going to be increasingly impractical

Trying to stop everyone from taking pictures of her, all the time, is not what the question asked. She wants to know how to keep well-meaning but insensitive acquaintances from snapping photos against her wishes at parties.
posted by pineapple at 3:00 PM on July 7, 2007


Oh man, being a photographer is the BEST excuse for not having to do things. I spent my birthday taking pictures of everyone else so that no one would force me to belly dance. If you're the one taking the picture, its much harder to be in it. Plus- if someone else has a camera and is about to point it in your general direction just put it in front of your face! Then, viola, faceless picture!
posted by thebrokenmuse at 3:39 PM on July 7, 2007


This situation proves an age-old truth:
You can't control anyone else's behavior. You can only choose your own.
posted by The Deej at 3:46 PM on July 7, 2007 [3 favorites]


I really, really hate having my picture taken. And I, too, am a photographer -- of people, no less.

Yes, people can be really obnoxious about forcing their cameras on you. And, no, there's really no excuse. They are the selfish ones, not you.

But awhile back I had an epiphany: If someone is taking a picture of me, it means they want a picture of me. Which means, presumably (unless you want to venture into the realm of paranoia), that they don't think I look as terrible as I think I do, or at the very least that they don't mind how terrible I look.

I think what you should start doing is to ask people why they want to take your picture. You might be delighted by the responses. Even if the photograph isn't flattering, there's a good chance the photographer will be.
posted by Reggie Digest at 4:04 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think what you should start doing is to ask people why they want to take your picture.

The thing is it shouldn't matter why they want your photo. No matter what their reason is, they don't need your photo. What's important is that they respect that you don't want them to take it, regardless of your reason why.
posted by koshka at 4:15 PM on July 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


Why should they respect your reasons for not wanting the picture taken if you don't even consider their reasons for taking it?

Asking why they want to take the picture can easily be turned into a "No thanks."
posted by Reggie Digest at 4:28 PM on July 7, 2007


Some hate broccoli; some hate bacon...

I hate having my picture taken.


...and I'm a photographer as well; I suppose it's self defense- If I'm on the backside of the camera all the time, I'll show up very few times in the pictures.

That said, if a potential subject asks me not to photograph them, I will comply instantly and without judgment of their reasoning. It's the polite thing to do.

I've run into the situation more than once, and have always respected the unwilling subject's wishes. I sometimes wonder why, and am finding this thread illuminating.

Photography, done in my style, is a cooperative effort between the photographer and the subject. There is a subtle, but definitely two-way flow of energy to getting great portraits. Just aiming a camera and banging away doesn't work for me; I need rapport. Not going to get that with someone who is either intimidated or unwilling.
posted by pjern at 4:44 PM on July 7, 2007


Why should they respect your reasons for not wanting the picture taken if you don't even consider their reasons for taking it?

Asking why they want to take the picture can easily be turned into a "No thanks."


Why can't I just say "no thanks" right off the bat and end it right there?

Someone asking to take my photo and me being on the receiving end is much different than being the person who wants to take it. If someone at a party asks if they may touch my breasts, should I first ask them "why" in order for me to determine whether I should respect their reason? Or should I just say "no thanks" and the person accepts that?
posted by koshka at 4:51 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


When people call cameras a soul stealing device that's not as hyperbolic as some may think.

Obviously I understand the desire not to be photographed.

Street photography requires an aggressive photographer. You can't do it unless you're the kind of person who believes that it's better to ask for forgiveness than to ask permission. There are many stories of great photographs that exist only because the photographer was willing to defy the wish of the subject. This, plus our generally exhibitionist culture and people's desire to boast and expose, makes it clear you are going uphill on this one.

Still, I hate advice like "get over it" or "suck it up". Telling people you don't want your photo taken will work for some or perhaps most. If you see someone pointing a camera at you, putting your hand up and yelling "Hey" or "Stop" will generally prevent that photo and give you a chance to tell them not to photograph you. Moving out of the way works but you need to talk to the photographer as it won't be enough to dissuade them. Preventing photographs without attracting some attention or possibly causing a small scene is pretty much impossible. Speaking in a loud voice every time someone is about to take a photo of you will discourage most. If focuses the attention on them and makes it clear to everyone around that they are imposing their wishes on you. As some of the comments show, many photographers also hate to be photographed and they are hiding behind their cameras. The center of attention is not where they want to be, so that's an effective aversive response. By the way, I applaud you for not using a camera to get out of being photographed. You shouldn't have to play some silly role to prevent people from imposing their wishes on you. For those who are enticed to deny your request, grabbing the lens or putting your palm on it might delay them but they are generally persistent. Some people mention violence and if you can grab the camera and break it that will certainly work. I recommend men think twice. This will start a fight if you don't have them totally outclassed.
posted by BigSky at 5:04 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


I think that it is entirely appropriate to seize and destroy any camera which takes a photo of you without your permission. What're they gonna do about it, huh? "Buy you a new camera? Fuck you -- you're lucky I don't run you over with my car. What's that? Please don't run you over? Sorry, I don't respond to polite requests."

Seriously. First, politely ask. "Please don't take my picture."

Second, be firm. "Really. Don't take my picture."

Third, threaten. "I guarantee that you'll regret it if you take my picture."

Finally, follow through. They can't say that they weren't warned.

It is entirely appropriate to refuse to be photographed. It is not far outside the realm of common social convention. It is, however, entirely within the realm of common social convention to kick some ass when others are being abusive towards you.
posted by solid-one-love at 5:05 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


There is a simple reason why you look uglier in photographs than in (what passes for) real life.

Your real-life image of yourself is a mirror image.
A photograph is not a mirror image.
So all the asymetries of your face, to which you have mentally adjusted for in the mirror-image, are perceptually doubled when you look at a non-mirror image.

Try mirror-imaging a photograph of yourself.
Isn't it significantly less ugly?

Besides--party photos? All anyone ever looks at in them is themselves anyway.
posted by hexatron at 5:21 PM on July 7, 2007 [2 favorites]


A Firefly 3 will prevent most autofocus cameras from working properly, as long as you have it on. If a "Gotcha" idiot shows up, and just won't give me their camera to hold, and I really don't want my picture taken, I just fire up the Firefly, and then get up in their face with it. I'm not above putting a hand on the collar of any insufferable bore, and showing them the door, and that is exactly what people with unwelcome cameras are.

And I do the camera-right-back thing, too.
posted by paulsc at 5:44 PM on July 7, 2007


One guy I knew got around this problem by being the photographer himself. Photogs don't really like taking pictures of other photogs. Also, if someone is already taking pictures, some people will be less compelled to take pictures themselves, especially if they know that they'll be able to get copies.

(sorry if this advice was dispensed earlier, I didn't have time to read through all the responses)
posted by breath at 6:20 PM on July 7, 2007


A few final responses:

Yes, it's a good idea to choose friends who respect others, and exclude rude or pushy people from one's circle. However, social life is not so controlled as all that. One hasn't any choice over the people one's friends regard as friends.

I take the point about whipping out a camera oneself, but then that puts one into the very category of people one's not so keen on. In any case, the kind of people who think it's amusing to snatch a photo of a person who's asked not to be photographed only need a stray moment to do so. Carrying a camera oneself is no magical shield. And for that matter, I don't necessarily want to have to carry and look after a piece of expensive equipment at a party.

I appreciate the suggestions of mayhem but am in search of some way to settle this matter with some degree of social grace rather than a scrap. Likewise, I don't want to enter into complicated discussions of my motives or the would-be photographer's motives. I would like the preference to be as simple and unremarkable as preferring coffee to tea.

I suppose I'm lucky enough that this just really annoys me. It doesn't upset me enough to make me puke, as one of the posters relates of her experience.

Thanks all for your thoughts.
posted by zadcat at 7:40 PM on July 7, 2007


Abusive? Boundaries? Wow. The light photons are ignoring your 'boundaries' all the time, folks. All the camera does is record them.

One reason you may find photogs being unhelpful on this is that ignoring those requests makes for great shots. I've taken really good pictures of one friend who doesn't like her picture being taken, as she concedes. Another time, I kept taking pics of a guy who said "don't take my picture". He ended up flipping the bird at me in one shot. That picture is one of my all-time favourites -- and his! He uses it for his profile pic on most sites now.

I'm glad you're avoiding the physical abuse angle, because that wouldn't always work. It certainly wouldn't on me, because I am a hefty big bastard. You can't call a cop, because it's legal to take pictures of what you can, y'know, see and I'm not easily dissuaded by "oh please don't", mostly for the reasons above.

I don't know if there is an easy, social way to say no to this zadcat, because to the type of people who want an explanation (as I would), what you're essentially saying is "Treat me as if I was invisible", when clearly you are not. The photogs are not licking you or touching your breasts, as some comparisons have stated, they are just recording the image that's in their minds.

What you're asking photographers to do has little to do with your wishes, it's about them. You're asking them to pretend they don't see what they see, however aesthetic they find it, and not to remember what they remember. For many photogs the camera is an extension of the eye and memory. Asking people not to see or remember is unreasonable and odd. I can't think of a reasonable way to do it, barring identity hiding reasons.
posted by bonaldi at 8:18 PM on July 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


It certainly wouldn't on me, because I am a hefty big bastard.
Well, actually, lest I seem a total tool, it would work on me, but mostly because we're by this point creating a big ol scene and harshing the party, so I'd cut it out for the sake of good times.
posted by bonaldi at 8:30 PM on July 7, 2007


I make faces. Huge, ridiculous, ugly faces. Then, when my pictures come out badly -- who cares? I was TRYING to look bad!

It has really helped my photo phobia. YMMV.
posted by rosethorn at 9:18 PM on July 7, 2007


I totally understand, I don't like to have my picture taken unawares. It's an invasion of privacy, and quite rude for someone to persist after you've asked them to stop. Taking their picture is a good idea. Be very firm & very polite, and consider carrying a squirt gun.

I also recommend that you look at some pictures of yourself in mirror image. You're used to seeing your mirror image which is subtly different, and really looks wrong. Flipping a photo shows you the picture as you see yourself, and you may hate it less.
posted by theora55 at 10:34 PM on July 7, 2007


Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent. -- Issac Asimov

I will admit I used to have a hard time respecting other people's wishes to not take their picture. For me it's because I have such a passion for photography that I see something beautiful in other people's faces. I very rarely take "snapshots" of other people. I mean, I once spent over half an hour editing a photo of something I was going to sell on craigslist for crying out loud. I really put a lot of care and thought into the shots I take. So I always heard "I don't like having my photo taken" as "I think you're a terrible photographer."

Of course, I grew older and eventually realized that it's not all about me. No, I don't want my picture taken means no, I don't want my picture taken and I'm okay with that, no matter how maddening it is to have an artistic vision that can't be realized.

Besides, it's almost never worth it to sneak a shot anyway. People who are extremely photo-phobic are preternaturally aware of where the lens is of any camera at all times, and can be counted on to have a "I just took a swig of vinegar" look on their face in any photo they're in, rather than the beautiful smile that was on their face a few seconds previously.

On the flip side, if you're a photographer confronted with a "don't take my picture" person, sometimes it's very helpful to ask them why they don't want their picture taken. I was at a wedding recently and a friend of mine out of nowhere started freaking out about having his picture taken. I had already taken several pictures of him, but suddenly he freaked, so I asked him why. He had been in an accident recently which knocked out most of his teeth, and he was worried I was going to post pictures of him online that made him look like a gap-toothed hillbilly. I reassured him that I already knew what his teeth looked like, and that I was mostly taking pictures of him with his mouth closed anyway. And then I made a solemn vow to him that I would never post any picture of him online which even hinted that he was missing any teeth.
posted by the_W at 10:42 PM on July 7, 2007


It's important to remember that to some people, the do-not sign is an invitation. The more you make an issue of the photography thing in your social circle, the more those people are going to want to push your buttons. I hate to sound blame-the-victim-y, but from a practical standpoint, if you don't want your picture taken, don't bring attention to yourself. It isn't illegal to be an annoying jerk, and some will revel in that.

Taking a swing at them is just going to make them happier, it's like sending an unsubscribe request to a spammer. You've confirmed they know how to get under your skin.
posted by nomisxid at 11:30 PM on July 7, 2007


I tell people, without dancing around the matter, I don't want to be photographed. If they push harder, I say it again.

If they take it or keep going, I stop fucking talking to them after commending them on their respect of the wishes of others.
posted by Mikey-San at 12:06 AM on July 8, 2007


My personal judgment in this situation is to honor someone's request not to take their picture. However, I'm a little concerned that no one is really looking at the conflict here and everyone is either making one assumption or the opposite.

At its most essential, this is a conflict between the assumption that a person has a right to record what he/she sees via photography versus the assumption that a person has the right to decide if a recording of their image is made and how it is used. The temptation here is to just wholeheartedly choose one assumption and reject the other. But think about it while eliminating anything artificial and just looking at someone. Do you have a right to control whether or not someone looks at you in public?

Now, I think that in the US and many other places, one certainly does have rights over how their image is used commercially. I don't think that people have any rights outside the boundaries of commercial use, however, though I'm certainly no lawyer and I'm not sure. So we have right there a hard affirmation in our culture that people have some rights to control their image. Similarly, at the other extreme, we also know that people have a right to look at whomever they want as long as that person is in public. So there's the extremes.

Rather than look for some overriding principle that allows one right to completely erase the other (and thus "defeat" the opposing view), let's just see this as a continuum. We don't allow people to restrict, in public, whether or not (or how) other people look at them or their memories. This is because it's assumed that when you're in public you've relinquished that right. This is partly practical, of course—people do have to look at each other from time to time. On the other end of the continuum, we don't allow people to profit from an artificial image of our likeness without our consent. This is because we recognize that when one profits from an image, part of its value is in the actual subject of the image. We instinctively recognize, in our capitalist sensibilities, that if there's something of value there, part of that value belongs to the person photographed. This implies a limited sort of right to our images of ourselves.

One thing that stands out to me when pondering this analysis, is that the continuum is shifted in the looker direction away from the looked-at. On the looker end of the continuum, in public (which is the context here, even if it's a limited notion of "public" like a party of friends), there is no limitation at all on who a person can look at. I suppose that something really excessive could be stalking, but other than that, we can look at other people as much as we like, for as long as we like, as brazenly as we like. On the looked-at end of the continuum, the rights we see for the looked-at are not broad—that is, they're not all images taken in public. They're the commercial use of images. So, this asymmetry seems to me to indicate that being in public does tilt the scales in the not-controlling your image direction. In my opinion, this argues against the people saying that you have an absolute right to choose whether to be photographed or not.

I suggest that the way to deal with this matter fairly—that is, if one actually is interested in being fair and not merely imposing one's own bias on other people—then the right way to do this is to try to evaluate in any given situation where on this continuum a photography situation lies. For example, the more public the situation, the less rights you have to control your own image. Similarly, the more the photographer uses the image beyond just making a memory permanent, the less rights the photographer has to decide how to use the image (or take it, ultimately).

So one extreme would be a private situation where someone wants to eventually sell the photograph they want to take. That's should be totally the decision of the subject of the photograph. The other extreme would be a very public situation (on the street, for example) where a photographer is taking the photograph for use only as something to store in their personal scrapbook. There, the subject has little right to determine if the photograph is taken.

Where would parties among friends be along this continuum? Well, the more people present, the less control the subject has, in my opinion. (That seems to somewhat contradict commonsense if you're thinking along the lines of "more people equal more anonymity—but that would be even more true in a large public crowd of people, and we don't want to say that you can prevent photographs from being taken of you there.) A small, intimate party would be a situation where the subject should have a lot of control. And how are people planning to use the photographs? Well, displaying a photograph publicly as on flickr, even if not for profit, goes quite a ways beyond just making permanent one's memory. I think the subject has a right to determine if their photo is displayed publicly. If the photographer is taking it just for their own scrapbook, but it's a small party, then maybe this is a situation where the two people's rights are close to being balanced.

Which, unfortunately, is the type of situation that people are bad at dealing with. In fact, I think that most people don't even want to recognize the truth that often rights can be opposing and equal. We generally want to believe there are never any conflicts in rights.

However, even if the rights are roughly balanced in this scenario, I think there's another consideration that is a tie-breaker. And that is to ask: who does this mean more to? Who is more upset by this? Unless it's a very unusual situation (such as, say, a wedding and it's very important for someone to record the event), based upon the comments in this thread, it seems to me that the people who don't like the be photographed really don't like to be photographed...much more so than the photographer likes to take that particular photograph. So I think that the subject "wins" in this case.

Ultimately, I really think that on the basis of what's "fair", you can't say that it's all one way or the other. Photographers need to recognize the rights of those they want to photograph, and subject of photographs need to recognize the rights of the photographer. As situations vary, I think that a fair-minded person can use common sense to determine just how much consideration they owe to the other person. The one thing that's obviously wrong is to completely deny the validity of the other person's interests.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:53 AM on July 8, 2007


I take the point about whipping out a camera oneself, but then that puts one into the very category of people one's not so keen on.

Do you really have a problem with photography in general, or hate the idea of pictures of human beings as a concept? I don't think so -- you just hate when photographers disregard your wishes. It's certainly possible for you to take pictures and be respectful of people's boundaries, so I don't think you're really "fraternizing with the enemy".

In any case, the kind of people who think it's amusing to snatch a photo of a person who's asked not to be photographed only need a stray moment to do so.

These people sound like jerks. Normal human beings do not find this sort of activity entertaining. There is probably some sort of related pleasure that they get from your reaction (hilariously angry, cute pout, they just want your attention). It could be worthwhile to investigate that social dynamic and make it unrewarding and boring to take your picture, and rewarding and interesting to not take your picture. Some suggestions:
- don't let it be a game, don't respond to teases, don't joke about it, do not flirt, just be utterly serious when you say "don't take my picture".
- don't react after your picture is taken against your wishes. Indifference is very disheartening.
- be enthusiastic when people take pictures of others, ask to see, cheer them on, etc
- offer to take group photos when the opportunity arises, be entertaining when doing so
- point out suggestions for pictures. People rarely disobey when told "omg you have to get a picture of that!"

I doubt you'll ever be able to completely prevent your picture being taken, but at least you could change the incentives.
posted by breath at 2:03 AM on July 8, 2007


This is where proper folding fan etiquette comes in handy. You can obscure your face with an open one, and crack assholes across the bridge of the nose with a closed one.

I am a photographer. I don't want to be photographed. zadcat's stand is noble and sensible. Why should people have to "suck it up"? Learn to do this instead.

Any photographer who thinks that shots of unwilling subjects are better art (and more important than gracefully obliging a person's wish to be unpictured) is a numpty.
posted by Sallyfur at 2:54 AM on July 8, 2007


You're not ugly. I've never seen you in my life, but I know that the hotness and popularity of a girl are directly proportional to how much she protests getting photographed.

I don't know if it's just part of the false modesty that is considered feminine by our society or what the deal is, because my family has a positive OBSESSION with taking pictures (and none of us are really attractive, lol).

So, you're gonna have to deal. People are going to take pictures of you because you're sexy.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:01 AM on July 8, 2007


Here's how I deal with it: I ask my photo not be put on the Internet. Everyone seems to understand that. The photographer gets his photograph, but it doesn't get put on the myriad of social networking sites.

This works well because it doesn't make you seem weird or that you have confidence issues. Often this dissuades people from taking your picture at all, but the request is reasonable and gets rid of the "gotcha!" aspect.

Denying your friends and family from wanting to capture a moment for their own private albums is somewhat rude, but more importantly, weird. When things are weird people begin making assumptions to explain them, then feel uncomfortable and then you're a leper no one wants to be around. We can debate whether this is rude or not, but that's not the point. You can't bring a long debate to a party and explain why you aren't being rude.
posted by geoff. at 8:43 AM on July 8, 2007


I wish my comment had been more concise and clear. But I also wish I had directly answered the poster's question. So I'll do that. :)

Most people I know, I hope, would respect your wishes if you simply told them you dislike your picture taken and you ask them not to. I think a lot depends upon how you present and say this. People are often afraid of sincerity and vulnerability in our culture, but I think that it's necessary in these sorts of cases—you really need to get across to the other person that it really bothers you. Not that it merely annoys you. Don't make a joke out of it. Don't minimize it.

I would say with simple but obvious heartfelt sincerity, “It makes me very, very uncomfortable to have my picture taken. Please don't take my picture.”

That should just leave the jerks that don't care and don't mind that other people know that they are jerks and don't care about your feelings. Sadly, there's not much you can do about those people short of taking majick's advice and getting violent.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 8:52 AM on July 8, 2007


Any photographer who thinks that shots of unwilling subjects are better art (and more important than gracefully obliging a person's wish to be unpictured) is a numpty.
Hmm. I sure wasn't saying that. I was saying though, that pictures taken of unwilling subjects can turn out to be great pictures.

Another thing that has occured to me, thinking about this, is how often people, frequently women, say "ooh, don't take my picture!". It's like the whole "cake? ooh no, I really shouldn't, I don't want cake ... nom nom nom scoff scoff" thing.

So when people say no, they sometimes mean "don't take a shit picture of me" or even "take my picture but don't let me seem vain about it". Then you take the picture, and they're all over it, going "ooh", and asking for it to be emailed to them.

This doesn't mean I think that some people genuinely don't want their picture taken, but it might help explain the reactions of photographers who persevere when they get the first "no" -- exactly the same as some people perserve after the first "I don't want a cake" or "I don't want a drink". We've had AskMes too about how to get it over that you genuinely do not want to drink alcohol.

Secondly, there are two types of photographers. There's the drunken happy snapper who is just recording what's in front of them, and doesn't understand why someone wants to pretend they're invisible. Then there's the type who think they're good, and hear the "oh no" as a "I hate shit pictures", and think they'll persuade the subject with a good picture of them.

To be honest, 99 times out of a hundred, most "oh nos" are not genuinely upset by the thought of a photograph. So both types of photographer are used to ignoring them. That means the genuine type is going to have a battle to both persuade them that they're genuine and they will also seem unusual.

(Also: I should differentiate between having your picture taken and what is later done with that picture. Putting it on the net without permission is a big no-no in my book, and I take great pains to avoid doing it.)
posted by bonaldi at 10:09 AM on July 8, 2007


bonaldi, I think the original poster's complaint is to a big degree about the posting online part.

This thread has gone in a million directions but one of the central themes is that if you go to say a metafilter meetup, there are two components to it:

1) Meet and chat with other people from metafilter.
2) Everyone takes random pics and posts them online and starts a Metatalk thread so that the rest of the community can see.

I'm guessing there are a lot of people at mefi who wouldn't mind going to a meetup thats all about #1 but not so much #2. And, unfortunately, thats probably stopped many people from going to one at all.
posted by vacapinta at 10:23 AM on July 8, 2007


I think the original poster's complaint is to a big degree about the posting online part.

Is it? That's a problem, but I feel sure that the complaint is more general.

And, unfortunately, thats probably stopped many people from going to one at all.

It shouldn't, though. Someone pointed out that people are pretty cool about this with regard to meetups. To my mind, this issue is much more sensitive at meetups because there's lots of people on MeFi who prefer to be anonymous.

To be honest, 99 times out of a hundred, most "oh nos" are not genuinely upset by the thought of a photograph. So both types of photographer are used to ignoring them. That means the genuine type is going to have a battle to both persuade them that they're genuine and they will also seem unusual.

You seem pretty confident of this. Given the comments in this thread, it seems to me that your 99% estimate is far too high. I'd at least lower it to two-to-one.

But it's a bad argument, anyway. It's the same as arguing that most women mean "yes" when they say "no". In general, it's not really our right to assume we're able to detect people's true desire that are in conflict with what they tell us—we have a responsibility to take people at their word. If some people feel the need to say one thing and want another, they need to learn to get over their coyness and be honest.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 11:38 AM on July 8, 2007 [1 favorite]


You seem pretty confident of this. Given the comments in this thread, it seems to me that your 99% estimate is far too high. I'd at least lower it to two-to-one.
Possibly it's too high, but this thread is going to be a self-selecting sample, and it's certainly not as low as two-to-one. People who've coyly said "oh, no, don't take my photo" are many. People I've met who are physically sick? None that I know or have heard tell of until now.

But it's a bad argument, anyway. It's the same as arguing that most women mean "yes" when they say "no".
In general, it's not really our right to assume we're able to detect people's true desire that are in conflict with what they tell us—we have a responsibility to take people at their word. If some people feel the need to say one thing and want another, they need to learn to get over their coyness and be honest.


I take the no-means-yes point, but while using the argument to justify rape is wrong, it doesn't invalidate it. People frequently mean the opposite of what they say, and much of our social skills depend on our ability to discern what someone actually means, regardless of what they say. Hoping that people will tell the truth and not lie is like utter fantasy, in a society where too often both sexes are under social pressures to keep their motives, intentions and wants hidden or veneered.
posted by bonaldi at 11:48 AM on July 8, 2007


I think your best bet is to just tell them in your most serious, pissed-off-PTO-mom voice that you don't like having your picture taken, and to remove yourself from the area (if other people are being photographed). If the person insists on chasing you down, for reasons of social graces, it's probably best to let them take a picture, but make a point to talk to them afterwards about how inappropriate it was and how uncomfortable it made you feel. If that leads to an unsatisfactory resolution, feel free to socially boycott that person.

On the topic of not photographing people in general however, it can be touchy on both sides. For basic, non-art snapshots, photos are kind of seen as proof of membership in a group, and it can be seen as mean or self-involved to deny pictures - as if you don't want your picture taken because you don't want people to know you would associate with these people.
posted by fermezporte at 12:39 PM on July 8, 2007


Why not just say, "Oh let met take it" and switch places with the photographer...take their camera, take their place, take their picture. Then you're doing them, and yourself, a favor.
posted by pithy comment at 1:43 PM on July 8, 2007


vacapinta, bonaldi: yes, a large piece of this is about the posting-online thing. The web is searchable. I don't want some lousy picture of me turning up on Google search because somebody officiously tagged it on Flickr or Facebook.

And before you ask "who the hell are you that someone would Google for you?", I have a well-known local blog and do have my reasons to prefer to keep my face off the web.

And yes, I have avoided Flickr meetups for just this reason. Mefi meetups are not such an issue where I live: the only one I attended, nobody else showed up (!).
posted by zadcat at 4:01 PM on July 8, 2007


[really, please, take derail discussion especially with OMG rhetoric to email or metatalk, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:56 AM on July 9, 2007


Take lots of pictures of yourself with your own digital camera and a self-timer. Try different looks - hair up, hair down, smiling, not smiling, smirking, looking left, looking right, etc. Find a look you can at least live with, if not LIKE. Remember that pose whenever someone demands a picture.

Also, never look at the pictures people take of you. If they're passed around at an ensuing party, go off and get a drink, and when someone passes them to you, say that you've already seen them and pass them to the next person. If people really couldn't stand to look at you, they would not be inviting you to all this stuff. I am no picture of beauty either and I have the same dislike of photos, but no one ever, ever comments on my appearance, and I never think about the photo again after it's been taken.

(sorry if this has been said before, I don't have time to preview.)
posted by desjardins at 10:13 AM on July 9, 2007


This can be something of a self-fulfilling prophecy, or feedback loop. My mother used to have something of a phobia about pictures and indeed the tense look on her face when she perceived a camera pointed in her direction resulted in really unflattering pictures. It had something to do with not accepting the changes to her appearance due to age, and the resulting disparity between her actual appearance and her self-perception. She has gotten over it recently and is taking good pictures again. Pretty much everyone takes good pictures and bad pictures. Celebrities generally learn to pose to maximize the chances of a good picture.

I read something about a glitter makeup recently developed for use against paparazzi that is reflective and makes the image white out where it is applied. It works similar to the reflective film that people paint on their license plates to foil the red light cameras. It was a new development; I don't think it is on the market yet, but suspect that it will eventually be a common item (and/or illegal) with the approaching ubiquity of surveillance cameras.
posted by Manjusri at 12:05 PM on July 9, 2007


solid-one-love writes "I think that it is entirely appropriate to seize and destroy any camera which takes a photo of you without your permission."

You are incredibly wise. I say go for it, teach 'em a lesson. Especially if they've got a big white lens with a red ring. I don't see how this course of action could possibly come back to haunt you.

While you're at it, get a bat and take out those security cameras which are photographing you sans permission pretty much any time you're out in public in an urban area.

To answer the "question", here is the verbal formula: "No pictures, please." Saying please is the secret to doing it politely. If you're looking for a way to avoid making it all about your or appearing vain, sorry. That's implicit in the behavior.
posted by mullingitover at 3:52 PM on July 9, 2007


Sorry, but if you don't want your photograph taken then stay at home. When you enter a public or semi-public place then you are implicitly making yourself available to be photographed. It's as simple as that. You may ask politely and all that but people will find such requests ridiculous (who dresses up and goes out and then doesn't want to be seen?!) and they will ignore them. And if you do respond with violence then be prepared to be met with violence, perhaps from multiple persons. Again -- if you don't like your photo taken then stay home. That's why such spaces are called public spaces.

Really you just have to get over yourself. So you're not photogenic. A lot of people aren't. I'd say 90% of people aren't. From oily skin to crooked teeth to big teeth most everybody looks a bit 'ugh' in photographs. That's life. Deal with it. Move on, stop worrying, try to smile more, and know that there is no grade, no possibility of failing, there's just memories.
posted by nixerman at 5:42 PM on July 9, 2007


Sorry, but if you don't want your photograph taken then stay at home. When you enter a public or semi-public place then you are implicitly making yourself available to be photographed.

This is just COMPLETELY untrue. Kids in school should have their pics on the internet? What about a doctor's office? Haven't you ever heard of confidentiality? What if someone is in a witness protection program? You have a right to your privacy. Going to "a public place" is not the same thing as saying, "take a picture of me." I'm sure a lot of women hate upskirt pics taken unawares (I know I do). Surely you don't think that's right?

I hate the way I look in photos. I'm fun and sexy and smart and lively as all hell, and pictures freeze one moment in time, which usually seems to be when my eyes are closed. They just don't capture the real person. I used to pose for professional pics, and even then, when I was paid for it, I didn't like pictures of myself. I reserve the right to say, "no, thank you" when someone wants to take my picture.

As for the photographer up there who continuously takes pictures of people who ask him/her not to, and who has had people tell them he took the only good picture of them: hey, great. That's TWO people out of how many? When does "no" not mean no, exactly?

Say no, politely but firmly. Walk away. Offer to take a picture of the photographer instead. If all else fails, confiscate the camera if you can. I know all of you camera devotees hate the idea of anyone destroying your camera, but IF and only IF all the rest fails, I'm with Majick on this one. Threaten, and follow through if you have to. I hope it never comes to that, but there is nothing wrong with not wanting to be photographed.
posted by misha at 6:09 PM on July 9, 2007


[there is a metatalk thread about this thread. people who want to discuss issues that are not directly answering to the OPs question, please follow up there.]
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:18 PM on July 9, 2007


As someone else mentioned, I feel that my camera is an extension of my own memory. I take pictures of people without asking their permission (most often friends), because I want to remember them. The picture isn't for them, it's for me. So if they don't want their picture taken, in a way I feel that it's selfish of them. They're asking me to stop recording things in my memory, for no apparent reason. Thankfully most people who say this are the "I'm just saying no so I don't look full of myself", and then pose happily for you.

Legally people have a legal right to take pictures of things for their own personal use. So obviously destroying their property is just opening yourself to bad legal juju.

Anyway, I'm in the "ignore the cameras" crowd. In my opinion they have an arguable moral right to take your picture (perhaps not show it online, but for their own private collection), and fighting it will probably not help in the long run.
posted by ceberon at 4:16 PM on July 10, 2007


“The picture isn't for them, it's for me. So if they don't want their picture taken, in a way I feel that it's selfish of them. They're asking me to stop recording things in my memory, for no apparent reason.”

I was one of the people who mentioned that photography for personal use is like enhancing memory and in that way you certainly do have some "right" to photograph people.

However, there are limits to this, which I think you'd be aware of if you thought about it for a moment. For example, if you're about to make love to someone you just met and you whip out your camera, do you really think that you have carte blanche to do so, regardless of the other person's wishes? Sometimes, the subject's interests in not being photographed trump your interest in wanting the photograph, even if they are entirely memory-like personal reasons.

When you say "no apparent reason" that's obviously not literally true when the subject says "I don't want my picture taken". The reason is that they don't like it. Just because you can't imagine everything or anything that's behind their reason doesn't matter. There's probably some clod out there who argues the same with his newly disrobed sex partner.

And people have given more deeper reasoning in this thread.

In some situations, like a public meeting with lots of people, the photographer's interests far outweigh the interests of those who appear in the photograph. In other situations, like a bedroom, the subject's interests far outweigh those of the photographer. Most every other situation lies in between these extremes.

As I argued previously, it seems to me that a small party where a photographer wants the photos for his own personal scrapbook (or equivalent—just meaning "memory-like"), then all else being equal, the interests of the photographer and the subject are roughly equal. However, additional circumstances can shift that balance. In one direction, the balance is shifted if someone other than the subject(s) has a very strong and acceptable interest in having the photos taken. For example, the bride and groom at a wedding reception. The event is extremely important in their lives and they have a very strong interest in documenting it. People there should accede to their wishes. In the other direction, a subject might have a cultural reason to dislike being photographed. Or, hell, he or she may just have a strong phobia. Well, even if you think such reasons are irrational, the bottom line is that it costs them much more to be photographed against their will than it does the photographer to refrain from photographing them. You shouldn't photograph people in such situations when they ask you not to.

If the "no means yes" possibility bothers you, then just make it explicit. "Some people say they don't want to be photographed when they actually want to be photographed. But I don't want to offend anyone, so I'm not going to photograph you unless you tell me that it's actually okay. Are you sure you don't want your photograph taken?" That's more verbose than you would probably be in such a circumstance, but you can get the essential message across much more succinctly. It just isn't necessary for you, as a photographer, to disregard people's wishes when they say that they don't want to be photographed.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:59 PM on July 10, 2007


Have a costume party

and wear an elaborate mask
or have a face painter turn you
into a beautiful butterfly. Then,
you will shine and enjoy having
your photo taken.

Enjoy the Party!
posted by chat_me_up at 9:38 PM on November 27, 2007


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